Monday, 27 July 2009

What to see: Villa Fridhem, Åby

Long time ago Fridhem in the county of Ostrogothia was famous in Sweden as well as abroad as the country house of Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, where they every summer used to gather their children and grandchildren from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Belgium.
Shortly after their 1897 marriage, Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg acquired Parkudden at Djurgården in Stockholm as a summer house. But they were not entirely satisfied with it and in 1909 they bought a plot of land near Getå, where the famous architect Ferdinand Boberg (1860-1946) built them a new summer house in 1909-1910. They chose the name Fridhem, meaning “Peaceful Home” or “Home of Peace”.
The house is huge and sits on a hillside with a great view over the bay Bråviken. The drawing room (fourth photo) and dining room (fifth picture) were on the ground floor with the hall (sixth photo), while the family members had their rooms on the first floor, with guest rooms and rooms for the staff on the second floor. Easter, summer and Christmas were always spent at Fridhem. The rest of the year they lived in Stockholm; yet they came to consider Fridhem their main home.
The first of the children to marry was Princess Margaretha, who wedded Prince Axel of Denmark in 1919. Princess Astrid married the future Léopold III of Belgium in 1926, Princess Märtha Crown Prince Olav of Norway in 1929 and Prince Carl Jr Countess Elsa von Rosen in 1937. All of them brought their children to Fridhem for family reunions in summer. Other relatives also came frequently – Prince Eugen, an uncle beloved by the entire family, had his own room on the first floor, and Princess Ingrid, who called herself Ingeborg’s “fourth girl”, was often there as well. After Queen Astrid’s tragic death in 1935 her mother or sisters used to go to Belgium to bring her children to Fridhem in the summers.
The family gatherings began again after the Second World War and in 1947 Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg celebrated their golden wedding at Fridhem. Prince Carl died four years later. His widow wanted their grandchildren to take over Fridhem so that they could use it as a place to meet, but this was not practically possible and in 1953 the County Council of Ostrogothia took over Fridhem and turned it into a convalescent home.
In 1987 it was bought by a private man who opened a conference hotel there three years later, with a new building with hotel rooms and a swimming pool added across the courtyard. Since 2006 there are new owners again and Fridhem has become popular also as a weekend hotel and a venue for weddings. Earlier this year the princesses’ playhouse (photos 7 and 8) was restored and reopened, complete with furniture and toys brought back from the City Museum in nearby Norrköping.
In the drawing room there is a huge painting of the three princesses Margaretha, Märtha and Astrid, which Princess Ingeborg decreed should always hang at Fridhem. There are also some other mementoes of Fridhem’s royal past. The last family member to visit was King Albert II of the Belgians, who, deeply moved, paid a private visit to his grandparents’ former home while on a state visit to Sweden in 1994.
Fridhem’s website can be found here:

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